Raise your hand if you’re worried about heart disease, either because you or someone close to you has it, or feel that you’re at risk from it.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the UK 73,000 people die each year from Coronary Heart Disease. [1] In the US, ‘every day, nearly 2,600 Americans die of some type of cardiovascular disease, an average of one death every 34 seconds, and 7.1million Americans have had a heart attach during their lifetime.’[2]

So you’re a UK man you’ve got a 1 in 6 chance of developing it, and if you’re a UK woman, you’ve got a 1 in 10 chance.

But all is not lost. Fighting and alleviating, and in some circumstances reversing heart disease, is possible. With the right information at your fingertips, you can easily regain your health and walk to the end of your road without being breathless, or play with your children and grandchildren without that crushing pain in your chest.

As February is heart health month, I’m going to show you How to Beat Heart Disease in Four Easy Steps.

Read on to find out more.

What is heart disease?

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute[3], Coronary Heart Disease, often simply called heart disease, is the main form of heart disease.

It is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to heart attack. A heart attack happens when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart.

 Heart disease is one of several cardiovascular diseases, which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure, angina (chest pain), and rheumatic heart disease.

What increases your risk of heart disease?

Lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, being overweight and most importantly of all, diet, can all increase your risk of heart disease.

Stress, family history, ethnic background, sex and age are also contributors.

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of developing heart disease.

But, there are four changes you can make to reduce your risk, and the major one is to change your diet.

What causes heart disease?

Your heart pumps blood full of oxygen to your organs via a network of arteries. Your blood then returns to your heart via your veins. Coronary arteries supply your heart with its own supply of blood on the surface of your heart.

Coronary heart disease happens when these arteries on the surface of your heart become blocked. Blocked with fatty deposits known as plaques or atheroma. This is known as atherosclerosis.

This can even start in childhood for some.

These plaques build up in your arteries over time causing them to narrow and weaken which makes it very difficult for your blood to pass through. If one of these plaques ruptures, it can cause a blood clot that can block the blood supply to the heart, triggering a heart attack, or it can block the blood to the brain, triggering a stroke[4].

Eating foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat and are highly processed, all increase the formation of these plaques. In cultures around the world that eat a predominantly plant-based diet it’s virtually nonexistent.

How changing your diet can prevent and even reverse heart disease – the foods to eat to prevent heart disease

The solution is to stop these plaques forming, but how? By eating a plant-based diet.

As pcrm.org say:

Cholesterol is found in all animal products, as is saturated fat, therefore it is best to avoid them. Our bodies manufacture all the cholesterol we need, and increased saturated fat intake causes the liver to produce even more cholesterol. By choosing to eat a healthful diet, you can prevent and even reverse plaque damage.

The idea here is to stay away from foods that have cholesterol and saturated fat in them. These, as we have seen, block our arteries. Choose foods that are cholesterol and saturated fat free such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit – they all work to protect our heart. (Check out my blog post on how to get started by clicking here.)

Oats, barley and beans are all high soluble fibre foods that are great at helping to absorb cholesterol in our bodies. Soybeans are also good at reducing cholesterol levels.

A new research report confirms that heart disease can be dramatically improved—and even reversed—by a plant-based diet.

Researchers from this study counselled 198 patients with cardiovascular disease on a diet free of fish, meat, dairy, and added oils. Of the 89 percent of participants who followed the diet, 81 percent improved their symptoms and experienced fewer complications from heart disease.

In addition, those participants lost an average of 18.7 pounds, while 22 percent saw a complete reversal of their condition. This study employed a nutritional training program that eliminated both added oils and animal products.[5]

The foods to stay away from

As we’ve seen, to lower our risk of heart disease and reverse it in some cases, we must stop eating foods that are high in cholesterol and saturated fat and are highly processed, as they all increase the formation of the plaques.

Cholesterol is found in all animal products, as is saturated fat, therefore you need to stay away from them if you want to have a healthy heart. This includes fish, meat, dairy, and added oils.

Casein (the main protein of cow’s milk) has been shown to substantially to increase cholesterol and early heart disease.

Oil too, whether animal or vegetable including fish, vegetable, coconut, olive, walnut, sesame and sunflower to name a few, is 100 per cent fat and contains 120 calories per tablespoon. Fats in general provide about twenty times more calories than equal weights of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Just think about what happens after you’ve had a big meal with large amounts of fat. You begin to feel tired and all you really want to do is to lie down.

The reason for this? Your blood cells start to stick together, and similar to people leaving a concert at the end of the night, they all slow down and clump together and move en masse, trying to squeeze through your blood vessels rather than flow freely.

Some smaller blood vessels even get blocked, which means that your vital organs don’t get the essential nutrients and oxygen they need. You may start to get chest pain – angina, your blood pressure will rise, and all your major organs, including your brain, will not work as well as they should. And it’s all down to the food you’ve eaten.

What about fish oil?

Ah, yes, fish oil. There have been many studies that have concluded that fish oil does not protect your heart from disease. As recently as last May, 2014, the New England Journal of Medicine published results from the Risk and Prevention Study in Italy that found people taking an omega-3 supplement were no more protected from death from heart disease than those taking a placebo.

The Solution

It’s pretty straightforward. To prevent, reduce and reverse your heart disease make these four changes to your lifestyle:

  1. Eat plant-based food and remove all animal products from your diet
  2. Exercise moderately – click here for more info
  3. Don’t smoke
  4. Adopt stress management techniques – click here for more info

Not only will you heal your heart, but you’ll lose weight if you need to, and if you keep to the plan, it will stay off. But you have to be consistent.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long you’ve been ill for, or where you live. You can reap enormous benefits from making these simple lifestyle changes.

There’s no need for a prescription or surgery, just follow these four simple steps and the damage you’ve done to your arteries over the years will start to melt away.

Just a reminder… if you’re on prescription drugs for heart disease and you start to implement these changes, please make sure you check in with your doctor as your need for medication will change – for the better. No need to take more drugs than you really need!

Looking for plant-based meals?

Check out my new digital cookbook which features 31 plant-based vegan meals. Click here to read more.

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Up above, I shared with you How to Beat Heart Disease in Four Easy Steps. If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to SHARE this post with people you think will find it valuable. You can use the buttons to share this post with your social networks. Hopefully you will and so I’ll give you a big THANK YOU in anticipation.

Have you reversed your heart disease by following a whole food, plant-based diet? I’d love to hear from you. 

[1] Source: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Coronary-heart-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[2] American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2005 Update. Dallas, Texas: American Heart Association; 2005

[3] http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/hearttruth/lower-risk/what-is-heart-disease.htm

[4] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Atherosclerosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

[5] Esselstyn CB Jr., Gendy G, Doyle J, Golubic M, Roizen MF. A way to reverse CAD? J Fam Pract. 2014;63:356-364b.